By BM EA Columnist
The BMW X3 is a small luxury SUV that offers more room than BMW’s extra-small SUV – the X1, without being as large as its midsize X5. The X3’s mix of practicality, fuel efficiency and performance has made it a class favourite since its introduction in 2003.
For 2022, the X3 gets a light styling refresh featuring slimmer headlights, a larger grille and revised front and rear bumpers. The rear of the X3 also gets a new look via restyled tail lights.
BMW has also fiddled with the X3’s engines. It has discontinued the plug-in hybrid model – the xDrive30e, so all that’s left is the four-cylinder in the sDrive30i and xDrive40i and the six-cylinder in the M40i.
Serious competition can be found in everything from the Mercedes-Benz GLC to the Audi Q5 to the subtle Volvo XC60 to the stirring Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
While delivering luxury and practicality, the 2022 BMW X3 SUV also channels sports sedans from BMW’s past to blend driving fun into the equation.Its balanced chassis and well-tuned steering make it a surprisingly willing partner on twisty roads. The X3’s cabin is comfortable and upscale if conservative in its design. It’s a nice place to spend time.
BMW has incorporated plenty of technology into the X3, including two digital dashboard displays as well as a host of driver-assistance features. Overall, the X3 is well-rounded, but it’s the agile handling and gutsy turbo engines that make it one of this magazine’s favourite BMWs.
The 2022 BMW X3 receives a styling refresh which includes new wheel designs and tweaked exhaust tips. The base X3 is available with an M Sport appearance package which dresses it up to look similar to the racier M40i model. Speaking of the M40i, it gains a 48-volt mild hybrid system for 2022, but combined horsepower remains the same 382-hp as the 2021 model. This system features an upgraded starter-generator and an additional battery to assist with engine acceleration, making the stop-start system run smoother and allowing for more efficient engine operation in heavy traffic.
Inside the front cabin, the centre console has been reworked, with a number of controls repositioned. While a 10.3-inch infotainment display and a matching digital gauge display are standard, BMW additionally offers 12.3-inch upgrades in both.
Regardless of the exact power output, all BMW engines exude similar strong and refined character. While the M40i’s 382-hp six-cylinder motivates it to 100 kph in just over 4 seconds, the standard 248-hp four-cylinder is plenty powerful enough and saves on the dear fuel.
The turbocharged four-cylinder collaborates with the excellent eight-speed automatic transmission to make easy passes in traffic and sip fuel on the highway. The entry X3 sDrive30i only drives the rear wheels. That is not a problem for anyone living in the city. Owners who traverse upcountry have the option to upgrade to the all-wheel-drive xDrive30i model.
With the four-pot engine under its bonnet, the rear-wheel-drive sDrive30i and all-wheel-drive xDrive30i provide enough power to comfortably negotiate almost any traffic situation, all offering an exhilarating drive. Those seeking a performance-oriented crossover will find the X3 M40i more to their liking. Its inline-six workhorse provides almost brutish power, out-accelerating all but the most potent version of the Porsche Macan Turbo and the Mercedes-AMG GLC43.
The X3 is fun to drive and willing to arc around corners better than expected. The ride quality is well balanced with just enough firmness for an inspired feel without resulting in a rough ride over bumpy road surfaces.
One option that is not available locally is the adaptive suspension. Called dynamic damper control, it adds comfort, sport, and eco pro driving modes to the xDrive30i. An adaptive M suspension, available on the M40i, lowers the chassis 0.4 inch. But, again remember, this is Africa – furthermore Kenya. This option is big problem down the road. You are likely to more often than not, find your prized Bavarian on a flat-bed truck than on the new Express way between JKIA and the end of Waiyaki Road.
The X3’s stylish interior comes well equipped before you check a single option box. 10-way power-adjustable front seats – which include adjustable side bolsters, make it easy to find a comfortable position. Rear-seat occupants are treated to reclining seatbacks, and the cushioning on all seats is plush enough for long journeys.
The rest of the X3’s cabin is handsome and well put together, with well-chosen materials and tight panel gaps. The glossy wood grain trim looks and feels real despite being plastic. The stitched faux-leather dash and door coverings add an extra element of luxury, as do the nickel-finish metal trim.
The X3 is about average for the segment in the carry-on suitcase contest. Seven carry-ons will fit comfortably behind the second row – enough for each occupant to have one, with room left over for two extras – and 20 fit in total with the rear seats folded, in case you want to go on an extra-long holiday with your companion.
BMW’s iDrive interface provides everything a modern luxury car’s infotainment system should. The 0.3-inch infotainment display is standard and features in-dash navigation as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A larger 12.3-inch infotainment display is optional. Bluetooth phone connectivity, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and one USB port are standard. Every other infotainment feature is offered as an optional extra; for those looking to juice two devices at once, a second USB port is optional as is a wireless smartphone charging pad.
A full suite of driver-assistance features is available on the X3 but BMW offers the basics as standard equipment. Key safety features include automated emergency braking with forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control.
The updated BMW X3 has surprisingly agile handling, a gutsy optional inline-six engine and more fuel efficiency than expected.
So, while BMW sport saloons have lost some of that old-fashioned BMW driving verve, the X3 SUV still delivers those thrills – with the added benefit of practicality.
Make your way to Inchcape Kenya’s state of the art Westlands showroom and take a peep at what should be your luxury small SUV of choice. You will not be disappointed.